'Sons of Anarchy' Ends As A Macho Soap Opera Often Anchored By Women FX's biker drama Sons of Anarchy airs its final episode tonight, capping a seven-season run. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says cable's most macho series succeeded by finding strong roles for women.

'Sons Of Anarchy' Ends As A Macho Soap Opera Often Anchored By Women

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One of cable TV's most unlikely hits takes a final ride tonight.


CURTIS STIGERS AND THE FOREST RANGERS: (Singing) Ridin' through this world all alone.

SIEGEL: The "Sons Of Anarchy," the FX blockbuster series about a biker gang, airs its final episode that caps a seven-season run. NPR TV critic Eric Deggans says it's going out at the top of the ratings because it is TV's best soap opera for guys.

ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: "Sons Of Anarchy" is probably the most macho drama on television, featuring a gang of gun-running, porn-making bikers. But the biggest moment of its final season featured a woman - Gemma Teller, mother to biker club president Jax Teller. Gemma admitted killing Jax's wife, Tara, and lying about it, which started a gang war. And when she finally came clean, Jax insisted she pay the ultimate price.


KATEY SAGAL: (As Gemma Teller) I loved Tara very much. This is not an excuse. I barely remember what happened that night.

CHARLIE HUNNAM: (As Jax Teller) But it happened.

SAGAL: (As Gemma Teller) My baby boy. It's time. I'm ready.


KURT SUTTER: This is a story about the queen and the prince.

DEGGANS: "Sons Of Anarchy" creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter cast his wife, former "Married With Children" star Katey Sagal, as Gemma. First, Sutter planned to make Gemma a background player.

SUTTER: I always had envisioned Gemma as sort of being like the Nancy Marchand character in "The Sopranos" - kind of in the background and kind of pushing buttons and pulling strings, but not necessarily the key manipulator.


SAGAL: (As Gemma Teller) Nothing gets in the way of me taking care of my family, especially my conscience.

DEGGANS: Strong female characters like Gemma help draw female viewers. The show's season premiere this year topped ratings across TV for men and women. But the show mostly plays like a soap opera for guys, filled with melodrama, along with violence, sex and a macho swagger that appeals to male fantasies.

SUTTER: You know - and I say this all the time - you know, my show is pulp fiction.

DEGGANS: Sutter created the show in 2008, imagining a California version of "The Sopranos."

SUTTER: I straddle that line of absurdity a lot of the times and for me if I had a complete accurate retelling of this world, it just would not be a fun show (laughter).

DEGGANS: Fans called it "Hamlet" on motorcycles, with a young Jax rising to leadership in a gang originally led by his stepfather, who had secretly killed his father. But that changed in 2012 when Sutter added former "NYPD Blue" star Jimmy Smits as Nero Padilla, a Latino gang leader and new boyfriend for Gemma. Even Smits is surprised he's still around now, citing the shows quality as one reason.

JIMMY SMITS: There's a dynamic that happens with an audience that they like getting a kind of one-two punch. They like being able to know about a world and think they know who the characters are - thinking how is Bobby going to - how is Jax going to - because I know Jax. How are they going to react?

DEGGANS: Smits's character also helped "Sons Of Anarchy" become more multicultural. Early seasons showed a pretty racist and homophobic biker group. Now, one member has fallen in love with a preoperative transgender woman, while Latino and black characters are close allies.

SMITS: Just as the show has been an equal opportunity offender - you know, that every ethnic group gets their little hits - it's been a bastion of inclusiveness on so many different levels.

DEGGANS: "Sons Of Anarchy" creator and executive producer Kurt Sutter won't dish finale details, saying the show ends pretty much how he planned years ago.

SUTTER: Hopefully, we'll be seen as something original and important in terms of putting something different and diverse onscreen that, you know, doesn't involve people walking - just walking - out to crime scenes or down a hospital corridor.

DEGGANS: That may be the best thing you can say about a show that's always found the humanity in the biggest outlaws on television. I'm Eric Deggans.


CURTIS STIGERS AND THE FOREST RANGERS: (Singing) The king is dead, but life goes on. Don't lose your head.

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